A ballfield isn’t the only place to find Cumberland County’s best youth team-building exercises this summer.
The Cumberland County Playhouse is well known throughout the South for catering to young performers and audiences, and the Mainstage’s production of Roald Dahl’s “Matilda: The Musical” continues that tradition.
“They’re representing a lot of Tennessee,” director Jess Griffin said of the young troupe she’s leading. “They’re all little professionals. All of the kids in the show are unique; they’re talented, they’re respectful.”
The professionalism and teamwork are evident in rehearsals, where lines are delivered to perfection and complicated choreography goes off without a hitch. The youngsters don’t miss a synchronized step amongst the twist, twirls and leaps.
“Matilda” is Dahl’s story of a gifted child born to cold, uncaring parents. Her acumen is appreciated by her school’s librarian and her teacher, in spite of a tyrannical school mistress who frightens faculty and students alike. The Playhouse’s production, rated PG, continues on the Mainstage through Aug. 18.
Kyra Crosby and Sarah Hedrick alternate in the title role. The two 10-year-olds hold their own against Playhouse favorites and professionals Jason Ross and Britt Hancock.
Kyra hails from neighboring Cookeville. The Playhouse stage is like a second home to the youth, who ticks off her 10th production as Matilda.
“I just watched a couple of shows, and I really wanted to do it,” she explained prior to one of last week’s rehearsals. “It’s such a fun opportunity to be here on stage. It made me become a more open person.”
Matilda is Sarah’s second Playhouse role. She previously played the title role in “Annie” and has a wealth of experience in and around her native Sevierville. She’s performed at Dollywood and in Broadway Comes to Greeneville at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center.
“It’s very fun — and it’s a great opportunity,” she said of “Matilda.” “And Jess is amazing.”
Griffin considers it an honor to direct her young cast of 30.
“It’s the first production in this area to get the rights,” she said of the Tony Award winning musical that’s been a hit on Broadway and in London. “The talent is really incredible — the show is fun; it’s magical, and it has a really important message. I hope they walk away inspired.”
The Playhouse is a center for summer youth activity. In addition to “Matilda: The Musical,” Triple Threat summer camps for ages 5-19 take place the last two weeks of June to hone performance skills in song, dance and acting.
Opening July 10 in the Adventure Theater will be “Junie B. Jones: The Musical,” the G-rated adaptation of four of Barbara Pack’s bestselling books focusing on the title character.
Contact the Cumberland County Playhouse at 931-484-5000 for more about youth programs and productions, as well as ticket information.